Raptor UK canoe sailing

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April 2012

degrees off the wind when sailing close-hauled, with a tacking angle of between 112 degrees (best) and 137 degrees (worst). The straight-line distance we'd travelled in 81 minutes of hard sailing amounted to no more than 2.8 km (1.75 miles/1.52 nm) making our VMG a paltry 1.1 knots. I mounted my coastal flare pack as far as possible to the starboard side of my Raptor's stern deck and this should help prevent the mainsheet hooking underneath it and ripping if off its Velcro tape attachment when gybing. I noticed a line of fence posts in the sea bed that were exposed at low water but that could pose a real danger to lightweight craft such as the Raptor when submerged. They give a clear indication of the changing sea levels over the recent past.


I had carried a thermos flask of tea with me so we basked in the sunshine and slowly began to warm up. I bought a Lomo Renegade drysuit for my SO at the end of March. Their web site showed only the Small size suit being available all winter, so I checked daily to learn when they would receive stock of other sizes before travelling to their shop in Glasgow. Murphy's Law ensured that when they did receive new stock it was of every size suit apart from Small; they had in the meantime sold out of Small suits and my SO's size is... you guessed it, Small. This turned out to be a bit of luck though as one of the co-directors of Lomo offered me a Small Renegade suit, which had been used once by a member of staff and was guaranteed "as new", for GBP199 (a third off its usual price). An added attraction was its more muted colour scheme (blue and black) rather than the current design's high visibility yellow and black. This suit has a front relief zip, which apparently can be used by women as well as men. The latter have to use a funnel device such as the imaginatively named 'Shewee'. I read reports by women on various kayaking sites before buying a Shewee for my SO, so know that it can be effective but (as with men) the more layers of clothing are being worn, the more tricky it becomes to do the business. I think a 'dress rehearsal' at home would be wise before trying it out for the first time in the wild. She hadn't done this so decided not to conduct a trial at Abercorn, being further deterred by a telephoto-equipped birdwatcher on the nearby beach.



There didn't seem much point continuing east given our earlier slow progress so we delayed departure from Abercorn so as to arrive back at Blackness around 6 p.m., by which time I was hoping that the sea level would have risen enough to cover the impassable mud patches beside our planned egress area. The run back west was of course easy and rapid, with a maximum speed attained of 6 knots with only a slip of sail unfurled. We left Abercorn at 5:30 p.m. and beached at Blackness exactly half an hour later. I was relieved to see that most of the club members' boats were now afloat and we had no problems during disembarkation or when wheeling the boat up the beach. I often find that the rudder pedals become much stiffer when on a run, which frequently has me looking over my shoulder to check that my rudder is all the way down. This is probably due to the following sea hitting the rudder and trying to turn it one way or the other, requiring constant force on the pedals to keep the rudder inline. The only other observation of note on the sail west was that the larger (forward) anchor bag did indeed cause some splashing, as anticipated in my earlier report.

It took me more than 2 hours to disassemble my Raptor and load it onto my car's roof, so we didn't leave Blackness until after 8 p.m., as dusk was approaching. Although it had been a useful outing, it confirms my dislike of single-day outings with my Raptor. It's just too much work for such a short time on the water: 1 hour loading the car at home + hour travel time + 2 hours assembly time + 2 hours disassembly time + 1 hour loading the car on site + hour travel time + 1 hour unloading the car at home = 8 hours preparation for less than 2 hours sailing. Sea outings add further work since everything (boat and gear) has to be rinsed in fresh water once home. I was amused to read recently an old German blog introducing the Raptor in July 2003, which states "Die Aufbauzeit bis zum Segeln wird mit 10 Minuten angegeben" (the construction period to sailing will be 10 minutes)! A bit of Hydrovisions' marketing hyperbole.


During disassembly at Blackness I spotted some damage had occurred to my Raptor. The outer brace of the starboard side mounting flange for the foil control shaft on the forward iako had torn free from the iako. I think this damage occurred when sailing east close-hauled while a port tack, since I heard a sharp 'crack' at one point. Although I couldn't spot any obvious damage at the time, it was a little unnerving so I decided to keep relatively close to the Forth estuary's southern shore in case something vital failed. This damage is probably a warning sign that I was pushing the design limits of the Raptor by sailing with a passenger in such breezy conditions. Although some of the warnings in the Raptor's Owner's Handbook are probably liability-limiting legalese, they also clearly have a kernel of truth. For example: "The foil is so efficient and so strong that, if properly positioned by the operator, it will keep the Raptor flat and level until the forces exerted on the sail, mast, and iako attachment points cause a structural failure of one or more of these components"

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